“The University of Chicago Mansueto Library turns upside down all of the conventional notions about book storage and collection management. The solution the university chose is a costly one, but they believe that they have invested in the core principles of the research and discovery process.” S+R blog
Why is the Mansueto Library so exceptional? Why haven’t all research libraries more naturally transitioned to digital utilities and screen resources without displacing print? Some more feral impulse has caused an irrational response.
“Thank you again for participating in MIT’s Mellon symposium “Unbound: Speculations on the Future of the Book.” We were extremely pleased by the turnout and lively engagement between panelists and participants. The event would have been nothing without such a rich range of perspectives. Thank you for sharing your presence and thoughtful questions about this versatile technology.”
The enthusiasm of future of the book conferences can induce an exhaustion and dissipation as soon as it concludes. Organizers relax and participants return. MIT’s Unbound appears to want to live on. A recent email lists review sources and offers a continuing blog site. But a continuing half-life could also dissipate into an afterglow of commemorative postings.
Needed is an authentic FotB archive. This could be built at a research library. An easy approach to justification of such an archive is not only documentation and study of the disciplines emerging in reading behavior, reading technology book economics and book history, but also the collection allure of another genre of fan-zines and prophetic movements.
A recent essay by Craig Mod discusses the arbitrary and unfulfilled interaction of ebook software and ebook hardware. He uses the stilted ebook cover and illustrates the missing functionality of covers in ebooks. Let’s also consider this relationship in the codex and beyond.
Bookbinders refer to the cover-to-text attachment. A whole taxonomy of such structures is provided from the history of the book. There are laced, cased, laced-case, and even double cover laced-laced and laced-cased designs. But the tutorial is not the point. This legacy of structures manages manipulative leverages of reading actions. In an exemplary laced structure of 16th century bookbinding motion of the cover directly conveys to the text producing graceful openings and closings of the fan of the leaves animating the readers’ conceptual adventure.
But even this is not the point. As Craig asserts, the function of the cover must convey through the content. Here we encounter the arbitrary and unfulfilled state of the integration of hardware and software in ebooks. This is a very large issue, especially if there is consideration of the deep refinement of the integration of hardware and software, codex and content, in physical books.
Behaviors embed. Connectivity transactions, navigation manipulations and mobility excursions of hardware, with both codex and electronic device, become habituated. Perhaps in a similar way we habituate our engagement with content and its paratextual display as produced by software. The paratextual display of the codex has a particular advantage of long-term refinement and received assimilation. We are taught to read a paper comic book, newspaper or codex adventure novel through assimilation of well-refined, standardized display.
Ebook software, on the other hand, is always in flux and in revision and in a disorganized, proprietary relation with its hardware. But the most peculiar obstacle is chaos of paratext display as each device attempts to act out various format presentations and display multiple units of content on a single, flickering screen. This very complexity compromises reading efficiency as it disrupts attention and dilutes meaning. An interruption or visual tangent is read. When readers mention that they experience screen and print books equally well they really mean that they can impose a codex reading skill set on a screen book experience. They indulge a distortion that they manage.